The fallout from the appalling attack on schoolchildren and their carers on Parnell Street and the riot that followed raised many important issues for socialists.

Our thoughts remain with the parents and families of the victims of the shocking violent incident on the 23rd of November. We reiterate our condemnation of this horrific attack and of the lawlessness and rioting that followed.

The ability of the far right to incite so many of our youth into rioting in the aftermath of the attack was a deeply worrying development. It is by no means the case that all of those on the streets were hardened racists or had bought into fascist ideology. However, the danger now is that they will end up embracing such ideologies.

One would hope that this might give cause for reflection about the roots of this problem.

However, the days following the riot were instead met with calls for ‘law and order’ and simplistic denunciations of ‘scumbags’ by the smug liberal elite, using such terms to point score and deflect from their role in allowing this situation to develop.

The stark reality is that working class communities across Dublin have been abandoned by the political establishment.

Decades of deindustrialisation and neoliberalism and the slashing of community programmes designed to divert children and teenagers away from crime and drugs has seen the growth of a layer of young men with little interest or incentive to pursue education, and with no prospect or interest in employment. 

Of course those who committed crimes should face the consequences, but it is delusional to suggest that ‘law and order’ is a replacement for major investment in decent, well paid jobs, in education, and in community programmes desperately needed to draw generations of our youth away from crime, drugs, and anti-social behaviour. 

The hand wringing populist elite are of course happy to forget about this once the scene of the crime moves from O’Connell Street back to working class estates and suburbs.

Migration and the far right

The scale of inward migration to Ireland has forced the issue of migration onto the political agenda over the last two years.

It is an unspoken truth that large scale population movements provoke social unrest, not least at times of great inequality. Decades of neoliberal policy compounded by intense housing and cost of living crises and a huge surge in inward migration have created the conditions in Ireland where the far right can foment unrest and attempt to gain a foothold in our society.

We must fight to counter this influence, to ensure the safety of immigrant workers and protect migrants from being used as scapegoats for the failures of neoliberalism. However it is not enough to lecture the working class against the evils of the far right and racism; the material conditions which allow for its growth must be tackled. For socialists, this means not simply making calls for more public housing but actually addressing the scale and rate of inward migration and assessing both whether the state is in a position to support such a level in terms of provision of housing and public services, and importantly in terms of integration, as well as its potential impact on the living and working conditions for workers already in Ireland.

Some on the left perhaps fear being labelled racist for articulating this view, others are open in declaring their support for ‘open borders’.

Regardless, it must be stated that it is not only possible to favour a fair, regulated migration system and be resolutely opposed to racism, anti-migrant sentiment, and fascist ideologies; it is the correct position for socialists to articulate and it is vital that we do so in order to battle such ideologies and those who organise around them.

In this context it is the duty of socialists to be honest about the scale of inward migration in the current period; it is unsustainable. 

Over 100,000 Ukrainian refugees alone have made Ireland their place of residence in the year following the escalation in the war in February 2022, exacerbating an already appalling housing crisis and strained public services. By contrast, less than 30,000 new homes were completed in the same period, and the number of homeless on our streets, including many immigrants and refugees, continues to rise.

Something must give; if socialists cannot see this, or if they cannot say it, then we are handing an open goal to those who organise around the politics of hate.

Many fair-minded people see migration as the only way for people in poor countries to achieve a better life. They are of course deeply grateful to those workers who make such a contribution to our society – for example the nurses and doctors helping to sustain our struggling health service in the face of government underinvestment.

However the vast majority of workers – in all countries – do not want to leave home for work. 

As in our own history, economic migration is primarily caused by economic policies which prevent the industrial development of poorer countries for the benefit of the global capitalist class. This underdevelopment provides a steady flow of easily exploited labour, and allows western capitalists cheap access to the natural resources of poorer countries. 

It has long term consequences for countries from which people are forced to migrate – depopulation, brain drain and continued underdevelopment. Why should a developing state pay to educate and train nurses and doctors just for the Irish state to lure them away? The same can be said for our own nurses, doctors and teachers forced abroad because the Irish state refuses to invest properly in its public services and workers.

The true solution to global inequality is in the full economic development of all countries, an end to imperialist exploitation of the global south, and an end to the US led military aggression and colour revolutions which have displaced millions of people in the last 30 years.

Dangerous ideological climate – the right to free speech must be defended

The aftermath of the riot exposed the increasingly dangerous ideological climate that exists in Ireland (and more broadly in the west) currently. On the one hand we have a growing far right emboldened by the government and the liberal establishment’s total failure to deal with the many crises impacting working class communities as well as the surge in migration.

On the other hand, there is a growing ‘liberal authoritarianism’, advocated by the government parties and the broader political establishment and liberal elite, including parts of the left. 

The days following the riot saw calls for increased censorship of social media, more hate speech legislation, the introduction of facial recognition technology, the right of Gardaí to carry ‘body cams’, and more power being given to the Garda riot squad, for example to carry tasers.

Aside from the fact that a so-called ‘law and order’ response will not work to tackle the fruits of decades of neoliberal policy, it should always be the position of socialist to oppose threats to free speech.

Those who believe in the centrality of class politics to social change, who profess to be socialists, should not simply be wary of such developments but should be vocal in their opposition to empowering the liberal establishment to shut down debate through criminalisation of speech. One need only look at the witchhunt of pro-Palestine activists in the UK on the basis of fake anti-semitism allegations for evidence of the negative consequences of such an approach.

The Irish ruling class have adopted this liberal centrist ideology wholesale from the United States. The material roots of this lie in the fact that the Irish state and its elite is beholden to the US; our entire economy is in the grip of US multinationals and our economic model is built around skimming corporation tax from their profits. 

The drift towards NATO and the continued undermining of the remnants of Irish neutrality, the adoption of liberal centrism, the open invitation to the people of Ukraine to make Ireland their home should all be seen in this context – the need to please the new imperial masters in the US. 

Socialists should not follow this drift to liberalism. The Workers’ Party, for our part, supports a fair, regulated migration system. We reiterate our opposition to the far right, and commit to organising in working class communities and generally in order to defeat them.